After a regular season that saw the Great Bend High School girls’ swim team win their 10th straight Western Athletic Conference championship, the Lady Panthers will be taking 12 swimmers to the Class 5-1A state meet this weekend.
The diving competition begins today and the swimming preliminaries begin on Friday, with the finals being held on Saturday at Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka.
“It’s pretty similar to last year when we had Allison (Damm) and Hannah (Hildebrand) swimming in the individual events and our relays,” GBHS head coach Stephanie Maier said. “This year, we’re a little bit more confident in our relays that they can make it to the next day, at least our 400 freestyle relay and our 200 medley will likely make it into the finals on Saturday.”
Damm and Hildebrand will again be swimming in individual events, along with freshman Maddie Vesta, who is making her first trip to the state meet.
“Well, I was really surprised because I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to get in because my goal was 1:10 and I got 1:12,” Vesta said. “I’m ranked 24th, so I’m just trying not to get last.”
Vesta qualified for the 100-yard butterfly by the consideration time.
Consideration time comes into play when not enough swimmers break the qualification times set by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. The consideration time allows for the state meet to have at least 24 swimmers competing in each event.
Vesta will enter the meet ranked 24th with a qualification time of 1:12.58.
“Maddie just squeaked in at 24 in the consideration times,” Maier said. “We don’t expect her to swim on Saturday, but what a great way to make it into the state meet as a freshman, and it will be great to get her some experience, seeing what it is like to swim at the state meet as an individual.”
Hildebrand will be swimming in the 50 freestyle after a qualifying time of 26.83, and the 100 backstroke with an entry time of 1:06.38.
“Both of those, she’s pretty high in,” Maier said of Hildebrand. “She’s ranked 11th right now in the 50 free. The top 16 make it into the finals, so I see her swimming on Saturday. The top 8 medal, so with the 50 free, it’s kind of a toss up there.”
Hildebrand qualified for the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 fly, but a swimmer can only compete in two individual events.
Hildebrand, who swam in the 100 back and the 100 fly last year at the state meet as a freshman, chose to go with the 50 freestyle instead.
“I chose the backstroke because it’s always kind of been my main stroke,” Hildebrand said. “It’s always been my favorite. It was between the 50 freestyle or the fly. I chose the 50 based on last year’s state times, and it’s just less pressure because I swim the fly all year. I kind of want to focus more on the backstroke.
“I wanted to try something new, and if it doesn’t work, I can always go back to the fly next year.”
Damm, a junior heading to the state meet for her third straight year, will compete in the 500 and 200 freestyles after consideration time.
“Even with the consideration, she’s still ranked 14th in the 500 and about that high in the 200,” Maier said of Damm. “So still a high ranking and still a lot of expectation there.”
Damm competed in both events last year, finishing 16th in the 200 with a time of 2:13.89, and 14th in the 500, touching in at 6:05.89.
“I’m always nervous going to state,” Damm said. “It helps a little having been there before. I’m always nervous, but I’m excited to go. It’s always fun.”
The Great Bend 200 medley relay is ranked 19th with a qualifying time of 2:06.25, the 200 freestyle relay is ranked 25th at 1:56.18 and the 400 freestyle relay is 15th at 4:16.21.
CLASS 5-1A STATE SWIM MEET
Hummer Sports Complex
Great Bend qualifiers
50 freestyle — Hannah Hildebrand
200 freestyle — Allison Damm
500 freestyle — Allison Damm
100 backstroke — Hannah Hildebrand
100 butterfly — Maddie Vesta
200 medley relay — Michaela Cape, Brianna Schartz, Hannah Hildebrand, Allison Damm
200 freestyle relay — Kaitlin Fuel, Maddie Vesta, Kylee Spray, Sylvia Ofoma
400 freestyle relay — Hannah Hildebrand, Allison Damm, Kylee Spray, Brenna Haines
Alternates — Jessica Freund, Rachel Bussen, Mari Erb